Coronavirus: Personnel from the AIN organizational area providing support throughout Germany

Coronavirus: Personnel from the AIN organizational area providing support throughout Germany

  • Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support
  • Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support
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Currently employees of the major organizational element “Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support” (AIN) are deployed at eight different locations throughout Germany. They support public health offices and civilian administrations with the main focus on two hospitals in Ludwigshafen.

A man dressed in green wearing an FFP mask standing in front of a trolley in a hospital corridor raising his thumb.

Staff sergeant Thomas Wischniewski entering patient data after weighing. In spite of the shift work and a lot of pressure, the mood is good.

Bundeswehr/Wendling

32 members of the AIN organizational element, including civilian employees and soldiers, provide support in the context of the measures “Öffentlicher Gesundheitsdienst” (public health service) and “Helfende Hände” (helping hands). The personnel was mainly recruited from the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) in Koblenz, the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Ships and Naval Weapons, Maritime Technology and Research (WTD 71) in Eckernförde and the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Weapons and Ammunition (WTD 91) in Meppen.

Focus assignment in a hot spot

Along with forces from the Bundeswehr Joint Medical Service, military and civilian personnel from BAAINBw help out in two hospitals in Ludwigshafen. This is because Ludwigshafen, Speyer and the surrounding regions are so-called “hot spots”. These are areas with a particularly high number of infections.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Wendling’s actual task at BAAINBw are system architectures of Bundeswehr IT systems. Now he is one of the local team leaders: “We are working on several wards at the medical center and the St. Marien hospital in Ludwigshafen.” The team consists of two civil servants and eleven servicemen and one servicewoman. “When we receive a request for official assistance we react flexibly to the local situation and distribute our staff accordingly. Generally four people work at the St. Marien hospital and nine people at the medical center. The team leaders are responsible for administrative matters and take part in meetings.” Like all Bundeswehr aid personnel, Wendling constantly wears personal protective equipment. He deals with patients’ issues.

Relieving care workers

The staff from Koblenz also works at the medical center’s geriatric ward. This is where people of a very advanced age are cared for after their release from the COVID ward when they cannot go home yet for various reasons. The BAAINBw employees and staff from the medical service support the local care workers in threes shifts, 24 hours, seven days a week.

A man wearing a mask, gown, gloves, face protection and head cover standing next to a tray cart

Personnel must wear full personal protective equipment at all times: Staff Sergeant Christian Zeilfelder distributing meals at the St. Marien hospital.

Bundeswehr/Wendling

“The tasks are very varied. For example, we distribute food and drinks and support the medical personnel in their tasks. Of course we also help patients to contact their families,” says Lieutenent Colonel Wendling. “Sometimes we have to first of all find out their telephone numbers because the old people can’t remember them,” he continues. This becomes necessary when they need clean clothes for instance or the relatives want to talk to the doctor in charge. Nobody at the medical center is allowed to receive visitors, the infection risk is too high.

At the St. Marien hospital, highly contagious patients are isolated in a specific COVID ward. Infectiousness is measured using the so-called Ct value. The higher the value, the less infectious a person is. If the value exceeds a certain level, the doctor can release the patient from hospital. Many of the old people live in care homes. Frequently these facilities or families cannot have the patients back due to a quarantine or other circumstances. In order to solve these emergency situations, the medical center in Ludwigshafen set up an emergency care ward. The people concerned stay there until they are finally released.

Everyday reality - death and the risk to become infected

All helpers have to have a PCR test every three days. They get the results very quickly via texts to their mobile phones. During the waiting period, all helpers are very tense, says Wendling. If a person tests positive, the health office telephones. The persons concerned must subsequently quarantine, and the chain of infection must be traced. Testing began even before the support personnel was allowed to enter the hospital. “We were all tested with a quick test and a PCR test - all negative,” says Lieutenant Colonel Wendling.

A soldier and another man standing in front of a floor plan of the hospital wearing masks and keeping a distance.
Peter Wendling, Lieutenant Colonel
The coronavirus vaccination was voluntary and was possible due to free capacities at the medical center. Everybody who was willing to be vaccinated received the vaccine.

As enough doses of the vaccine were available at the medical center, all Bundeswehr personnel willing to receive the vaccine could receive the first dose of the vaccine. The second vaccination will take place on site soon.

A doctor inserts a needle into a man’s upper arm.

Civil servant Martin Gollnick receiving his first coronavirus jab. His actual work is in project management at BAAINBw.

Bundeswehr/Wendling

Constant coronavirus testing ensures safety

Gloves, goggles, FFP-2 masks and the required gowns constantly accompany the team. A certain risk of becoming infected with the virus remains nevertheless. The care workers are inevitably confronted with death. If you have cared for a person for several days and they die or if you have to send them on to their last journey to a hospice, this is very depressing, say the BAAINBw employees.

The fact that you are only allowed to take off your FFP-2 mask for sleeping, eating or in your hotel room almost becomes secondary. And life continues at home. “The people on the team are between their mid-twenties and their mid-fifties. Many have partners, families or children at home who currently do not have the usual priority,” says Captain Norfried Paetz.

A soldier sitting in front of a computer and a laptop in a darkened room

The hotel where the soldiers are accommodated has provided a room as “headquarters”. Daily communication with the Coronavirus central point of contact at BAAINBw takes place there, and administrative tasks are accomplished.

Bundeswehr/Wendling

Departure on Christmas Day

The personnel from Koblenz has been on duty since 25 December 2020. “On 22 December we received a phone call telling us we were required in Ludwigshafen,” says Lieutenant Colonel Wendling. “Captain Paetz and I then called everybody else and told them that we are about to start. Some found this hard to swallow such a short time before Christmas. I was all the more impressed when on 25 December 17 motivated people set off  for Ludwigshafen.” In the end everyone left their families to celebrate Christmas without them, no one backed out. “We all volunteered for the “helping hands” mission last year in autumn and were subsequently assigned to a so-called maneuver element,” adds Captain Paetz. It was originally assumed that they would be deployed in or near Koblenz and its surroundings in case they were required, he says. “Nobody expected us to be deployed in Ludwigshafen.” Nevertheless, everybody is motivated to contribute in these difficult times.

It has been decided to prolong the mission

The request for an extension of the administrative assistance submitted by the city of Ludwigshafen on 3 January was granted by the Bundeswehr Territorial Command on 12 January. Initially the mission will be extended to 19 February. The currently deployed personnel will largely remain, only a small percentage will be replaced.

A soldier and another man standing in front of a floor plan of the hospital wearing masks and keeping a distance.

Hans-Friedrich Günther (managing director of the medical center in Ludwigshafen) in a meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Peter Wendling (right)

Bundeswehr/Bürger

Further missions in the north of Germany

As early as last year in October several employees of WTD 71 supported the health office of the district of Stormarn. For weeks, the men and women helped the agency to trace and break the chains of infection. They tactfully interviewed infected persons, communicated quarantine orders and traced contacts in order to inform them.

At present five employees of WTD 71 have been seconded to support the fight against coronavirus. The team is a mix of servicemen and women, civil servants and employees supported by one soldier form BAAINBw. Currently they are all helping out at the health office Neumünster.

Helping hands in the Emsland region

WTD 91 has also seconded personnel for several weeks in order to support the health office in the rural district of Emsland. One deployment period is six weeks long. Currently one female civil servant and four male civil servants are active. Like their colleagues in the north of Germany, they spend the larger part of the day providing so-called aftercare by telephone for infected persons and persons with a suspected infection.

Fighting Corona together

Employees of BAAINBw and its agencies are also deployed as support staff at other locations. Lieutenant Bergman is helping out at the situation center of the Land Command Saxony. The soldier coordinates the civilian agencies’ requests for aid together with local employees.

In the rural districts around Koblenz civilian employees of BAAINBw provide support in the field of public health services at the health offices in Koblenz and Limburg-Weilburg as well as the district office Mayen-Koblenz.

Basis of the operation

Every Corona mission Bundeswehr members take part in is preceded by a request for administrative assistance. After a review of the legal aspects by the Bundeswehr Territorial Command, “helping hands” can be deployed to the requested locations within several days.

by Dennis König

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